Modern criticism has ventured to undermine and assail almost all the books of holy scripture, but none with such boldness as the Pentateuch, unless it be the prophecy of Daniel. The incredulity of not a few theologians in our own day, abroad and at home, outstrips while it follows that of Celsus and Porphyry, of Spinosa and Hobbes, of Bolingbroke and Hume. The remote antiquity of Moses especially seemed to invite their unhappy efforts in the dark; for as the prowling birds of night shun the day, so the sceptics of all ages love darkness rather than light for a reason which is plain to every eye but their own — a reason on which the Judge of quick and dead has already pronounced, if not on themselves because of it.
We need not cite the heathen critics, nor the famous Rabbis outside Christianity who rise up to rebuke such unconscionable doubts. We would not summon the whole nation of Israel, whose testimony is in this all the stronger, because from a date far earlier than the father of Grecian history it is given with double force to the law if not to the prophet. We would not glean from the widespread field of tradition, east, west, north, south; nor appeal even to the unwritten but emphatic records of Egypt itself, that once renowned mistress, but now, according to one of Jehovah’s prophets, the basest of kingdoms; which hides no doubt the shame of its rulers, but confirms in the most minute way the nicest details of the Mosaic report of Israel’s hard bondage before their triumph. Let us take our stand on the fact, broad, deep, and conclusive, that the authority of Christ has decided the question for all who own Him to be God as well as man. It is well that we should know with what sort of men we have to deal; for all have not faith. He who spoke of charity, and lived it as perhaps none other ever did since, saw no inconsistency (even if for a moment we leave his inspiration out of sight) in binding up with his salutation in the same epistle the solemn warning — “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maran-atha.”
Our Lord then has spoken with particular care of Daniel as “the prophet” toward the close of the Old Testament canon, but of Moses at the beginning as the writer of the law. (Mark 10:5, Mark 12:26; Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:46, 47, John 7:19.) It is not merely that He does not contest the position of the Jews as to Moses; He affirms it and insists on it repeatedly Himself in the plainest terms. Think of the coolness of a man, professedly not an infidel but a Christian and a Christian minister, who, after quoting Christ’s words, “Have ye not read in the book of Moses how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham,” etc., can say, “Here the allusion is to Exodus 3:6, which was not written by Moses, as we suppose!”1
Fully admitting the value of reasoning to convict gain-sayers, and expose the futility of their captious arguments, I lay it down as an axiom that in revealed truth it is and must be simply a question of a divine testimony, which is given to be believed, and which binds the conscience even of him who rejects it through unbelief. If physics require patient induction and comprehensive grouping under general principles or laws, if mathematics demand a strict and necessary demonstration, if the mixed sciences admit of both, the written word of God claims faith in His testimony which tests the moral state of him who hears. The faith which receives it traditionally and with indifference is of no value, and will under pressure give it up with the same otiose facility in which it assented. Certainly to doubt is not to believe; yet one could almost allow the saying to pass, that there is more faith in some doubts than in such traditional faith as characterises Christendom, save those in it who are born of God. For the soul which begins to be really in earnest is apt to hesitate till it has adequate motive to believe; while the flesh which so promptly offered to obey at Sinai is just as ready to say its Amen to the Athanasian creed.
Again, God does give sufficient evidence to render the unbelief of the objector inexcusable; but the faith which rests on such human motives is merely of nature, not of the Holy Spirit as its source. One may be arrested or attracted by such evidence; but God’s testimony must be received because and as He gives it, with no other motive whatever: else we set up to judge Him and His word, instead of submitting, as divinely formed faith always does, to be judged by Him. If the testimony be of God, it is the truth; and if so, he who cavils and opposes is ipso facto proved to be in such a state morally that he has no congeniality with the truth of God, and, if pressed closely, his indisposition to receive it ripens into active hatred and scoffing unbelief. Whatever be the circumstances, he has so yielded to his own thoughts or those of other men, that he overlooks the motives adequate to win his confidence which God has given, and becomes at length settled down in such hardness of heart against His word, that it is enough to resist all testimony, and he can only be left to the judgment which he despises.
From this it will be plain to the reflecting mind why in the things of God it is a question of believing a divine testimony, while in pure science we have to do with necessary inference, and in applied science with observed fact also. Hence in these latter it is of course a question of knowledge or ignorance; they are not the subject of doubt or belief as is testimony. But it is a horrible and fatal error thence to infer that any conclusion of science is more certain than every word of God is in itself and so to the believer. There are measures of faith as of knowledge; but, though no Pyrrhonist in the domain either of the senses or of science, or even of honest and competent history, I maintain that (pure science apart, where the premises necessitate the conclusion) the word of God alone gives absolute certainty, and faith receives accordingly. Revelation is the word of a God who cannot lie; and if man can with comparative ease convey his mind correctly, how much more can God His, infinite though it be? The human element is fully admitted; but the essence of inspiration is, that the power of the Holy Spirit excludes error in the writer. It is too much forgotten that there is ignorance in every reader; and that this ignorance as to divine truth is really and always, spite of appearances, in the ratio of our self-sufficiency.
Further, that there are difficulties, not only great but possibly insoluble by you, me, or any other man, is not only allowed but affirmed. It may well, not to say it must, be so in a system so immense as that of which revelation treats from the creation of all, and before it, till the new heavens and earth of eternity. But he is unwise who would surrender the positive proofs of revelation, or of the truths it contains, because of difficulties which perplex the human mind. There is no divinely formed province even in nature, and this in its least or lowest forms, where there are not enigmas beyond the wit of man; and these the wisest are the most ready to confess. If writings which professed to be a revelation had no depths beyond man’s plummet, it would be a juster conclusion to infer that it could scarcely be a revelation of God.
Scripture claims to be the communication of the mind of God to man, not setting aside the character or circumstances of the writers, but giving the full and absolute truth of God in and through all. Such is the doctrine asserted in 1 Cor. 2, 2 Tim. 3; and with this agrees the uniform use of the passages cited for special purposes throughout both the Old and the New Testaments. So above all said He Who spoke as never man spoke; and no wonder; for He was God as well as man, and man as truly as God. But it is to be feared that unbelief as to the written word bodes ill for the faith which is professed in the Word, the personal Word of life. In both cases it is the Infinite brought into the finite by grace; of which the ruinous speculations of unbelief would deprive us, as their authors have been themselves deprived of it by an enemy subtler than they are. Thus, if incarnation be the Word made flesh (a divine person yet a real man, “that Holy Thing,” born of His mother, and this by the power of the Spirit), revelation is the mind of God in the language of man, but perfectly guided and guarded by the Spirit. It were to lose the truth in both respects, if we accepted the foolish cheat of Satan that the finite drags down the Infinite. Not so; both were given in God’s love to meet the finite in its actual state of sin, degradation, and distance from God; and in both the finite is so governed by the Infinite, which has joined it to itself in holy and perfect union, that grace and truth alone exist and appear without the smallest admixture of human evil or error.2
Take the following decisive utterance of the Saviour: “How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” (John 5:44-47.) The Lord had been declaring Himself the object of faith, who as Son of God becomes the source of life to him that believes, but is the judge of him that believes not to his utter destruction. This leads Him to open out the various testimonies to Himself: first, John the Baptist; secondly, the works which the Father gave the Son to do; thirdly, the Father’s own witness to the Son; and lastly, the scriptures. Even the Jews owned their all-importance for their souls; yet did they testify concerning Christ. Self and the world were and are the true hindrances to the love and the glory of God, and hence also render faith impossible. Their accuser would be not Jesus [who will judge all] but the very Moses in whom they had their hope. If they had believed Moses, they would have believed Jesus; “for he wrote of me. For if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” Thus the Lord puts the highest honour conceivable on the written word, if it were only the law, and not the latest and fullest communications of God. For scripture as a testimony has a permanence in this respect which can belong to no spoken words. Christ did not therefore expect them to receive His own words if they did not believe the writings of Moses.
It will be observed, however, how many modern questions are here by anticipation answered. The scriptures as a whole testify about Christ. He is the object continually before the inspiring Spirit, directly or indirectly. Good or evil is noticed relatively to Him, the brighter and only complete exemplar of the one, the absolute contradiction and finally the judge of the other. The Old Testament therefore is in the fullest sense prophetic. Christ is the end of the law: is He not of the Psalms also, as well as of the Prophets? So indeed He risen from the dead tells His disciples. (Luke 24:27, and 44, 45.) I know that these unhappy rationalists dare to think that in the days of His flesh He, the Lord God, was not above the prejudices of that time and place from which they, dupes of Satan, flatter themselves somewhat freed. Thus they conceive either that He did not know the truth, or that, knowing it, He deigned to — . No; I refuse to stain even this paper of mine with their infamy of the Lord of all.
Yet, earnestly desiring not their destruction but their edification, I entreat them to weigh the last citation, and the fact, to them surely as reasonable men most momentous, that Jesus is declared so to speak as risen from the dead. If they have failed so lamentably in faith and reverence for His personal glory during His earthly service, at least they must believe, if they believe anything divine, that no human prejudices survive the grave, that in the risen state even we shall know as we are known. If then they are pleased to accord also to Jesus risen that perfection, which it is to be supposed they hope for themselves, I call on them with me to denounce the shameful, nay shameless, notion that He stooped to “a wise accommodation to popular views.”
Again, no one alleges that “Christ and His apostles came into the world to instruct the Jews in criticism.”3 But does not faith in Christ bind us to accept His authority as superior to any criticism? He declares both during His ministry and in the risen state that Moses wrote of Him, that the books commonly called the law, the Pentateuch, are Moses’ writings. Was He in this fostering an error of the day, and supporting it by His authority? Certainly it was no part of Christ’s mission to prove that the Pentateuch did not proceed from Moses! But it is impossible to believe Christ’s words and to deny that He declares those books to be written by Moses, which the rationalist declares are not, and distributes between Moses and perhaps earlier hands the primitive Elohist after the expulsion of the Canaanites, the junior Elohist in the days of Elisha, the Jehovist in the reign of Uzziah, the still later redactor who was not Ezra,4 and the unfortunate Deuteronomist in the reign of Manasseh who employed the “innocent fiction,” “which an uncritical age rendered easy,” of attributing to the legislator the utterance of the contents of Deuteronomy as well as the authorship of the first four books, in both of which Dr. Davidson (i. 118) deliberately imputes to him what is a fraud.
I trust the pious reader will pardon my copying such views, which I may fairly call the Christian or unchristian mythology of the nineteenth century. They have found entrance and even taken root in certain quarters beyond their native soil; and I am sure that they will work to yet greater ungodliness, and contribute to the growing denial and rejection of divine authority in the world as well as in holy things, the counterpart of the haughty and effete superstition which has just pretended to claim the infallibility of God, which no apostle5 had nor all together, for its chief priest: two main streams of evil which will pour their impure waters into the stagnant pool of “the apostasy” that is at hand for ungrateful and self-vaunting Christendom.
But the Christian will turn with increasing confidence and singleness of purpose to the living oracles; and loving Christ he will keep His word, even as he who loves Him not keeps not His words, little thinking that the word he thus despises is the Father’s who sent the Son, and will judge him at the last day.
Even the Jews who to their ruin refused Christ, because they did not hear Moses and the prophets, and who resisting them were not persuaded when He Himself rose from the dead — even they never went so far in presumptuous yet petty criticism as to shut their eyes to the most abundant evidence, external and internal, to the writings of Moses, never dared to deny (as rationalists do) the only light we have for more than half this world’s obscure history, besides its highest function of bearing witness to Christ. Never did they presume to say that there is little external evidence for the Mosaic authorship; that what little there is does not stand the test of criticism; or that the succeeding writers of the Old Testament do not confirm it! — all this in the face of such evidence as neither Greek nor Latin classics possess; whose authorship none would dispute but vain or crazy dreamers. Again, no intelligent man questions the claims of Mahomet to writing the Koran, probably not alone, but by the help of an unprincipled Jew. The reason of the difference is plain: not that there is nearly such an amount or excellence of proofs for the authorship of the Koran as for Moses’ writings, but that these, not that, appeal so loudly to conscience. The Koran flatters human nature, bribing its own party and bullying others; but the law brings in God, the true God, and testifies of Christ, which flesh fears and dislikes and therefore instinctively seeks to defame, unconscious too often of its sin and shame.
But if it is monstrous to deny the immense and unbroken chain of external evidence to the Pentateuch, were it only in the fact that the entire political and religious life of the Jewish nation turned on it in prosperity and adversity, captive and restored, for fifteen hundred years before Christ, not to speak of what goes on before our eyes till this day; if it is equally so to deny that from Joshua through the Psalms to Malachi the strongest links and the most express statements are given wherever they could be found naturally, what can we think of one who does not shrink from saying with the scripture before his eyes that “the venerable authority” of Christ has no proper bearing on the question? I should have thought that the effort to represent Moses as not the writer of the law as a whole, as a lawgiver, not a historian, was manifestly and hopelessly at variance with His authority who condemned the unbelief of the Jews on the ground that Moses not only wrote the law, but wrote it concerning Himself. If there are various irreconcilable contradictions;6 if there are convincing traces of a later date (beyond such as an inspired editor put for the help of the reader after an immense change in the condition of the people as all admit, Jews and Christians); if the narratives are partly mythical and legendary and only usually trustworthy; if the miracles are the exaggerations of a later age; if the voice of God cannot without profanity be said to have externally uttered all the precepts attributed to Him; if Moses’ hand laid the foundation but he was not even the first of those who penned parts,* where is Christ’s authority? Did He not mean, did not the Jew understand Him to mean, the five books of the law by the writings of Moses? Was He deceived? Does the evangelist John deceive us (unwittingly it could not be, if the Holy Spirit inspired him) through Christ’s words? Certainly, if Dr. D. be true, He who is the truth is not true; and the Gospels are as untrustworthy and misleading as it is possible to be. To state the blasphemy is to refute it; yet such is the inevitable issue if there be one word of reality in what is thus alleged against the Pentateuch.
But if the Lord is and spoke the truth, no real believer can fail, though with grief and amazement, to see that the rationalist stands in the most deplorable and fatal hostility to Christ’s authority and to God’s word. For if Moses testified the truth of Christ some fifteen centuries before He lived and died, he was a prophet, and inspired of God in what he wrote; and if God gave him, according to the Lord Jesus, to prophesy truly of Him, is it credible that he has written falsely of that of which even an ordinary man might have written truly? If the rationalist speaks aright, the Pentateuch is not Moses’ writings, but a bundle of tales true and false, and in not one word written really of Christ: else it would be bona fide prophetic, which the system denies in principle; because true prophecy implies God’s supernatural communication, and this would be necessarily a deathblow to the criticism of the rationalist.
It is needless to say that the objections derived from internal structure are only conclusive proofs of the rash ignorance of those who make them, and lead us, when cleared away by the light of Christ, into (not mere evidence of the Mosaic authorship, which is ruled definitely to all who respect the word and authority of Christ, but) an increasing sense and enjoyment of the testimony which the honoured servant bears to his Master, the Lord of all descried from far but most distinctly by the power of the inspiring Spirit.
If scripture itself gave the slightest intimation to that effect, there would be no difficulty in supposing ever so many writers contributing to the Pentateuch. The Psalms also consist of five books for an incomparably better reason than, as the Rabbis say, in order to correspond with the five books of the law. I have no doubt that their order is as divine as are the contents and character of each; and that they can be shown to have internal grounds for it of very great interest, instead of being a mere collocation of David’s first, and of others afterwards, which in no way accounts for some of David’s in the last book, and for one of Moses himself the introduction of the fourth book. But we have the sons of Korah, Ethan, Asaph, perhaps Solomon, and others unnamed in addition to the writers already named. But then we know the authors as far as they are mentioned from the inspired account in each case; and the grouping will be found to carry along with it the self-evidencing light of God; for none but He, I am persuaded, could have distributed to each as He has done, or have so tempered them as a body together, securing a moral and prophetic progress in the greater divisions as well as in the unity of the entire collection.
No believer would refuse to the Pentateuch what he owns unhesitatingly in the Psalter, if there were similar grounds of faith. But the declarations of God are clearly and expressly opposed to any such conclusion, and the internal structure of the law too has nothing in common with that of the Psalms, but to my mind falls in so simply and naturally with the single authorship of Moses, that the real difficulty would have been to have supposed more than one if the question otherwise had been absolutely open. If the Lord and the apostles had not corroborated irrefragably the Mosaic authorship, both the style and the line of inspired Jewish witnesses, not to speak of the evident claim of Moses to all implied in Deuteronomy, would point to this conclusion.
If Moses had been led of God to use a quantity of earlier documents for the writing of Genesis, of contemporary records for Exodus or Numbers, I do not see how this could impair the inspiration of the Pentateuch. For we know little of the mode in which God wrought inspiration, though we are authoritatively taught the result; and we cannot but be sensible of its essential difference from all other writings in the working out of the divine purpose, and in the exclusion of human imperfections stamped on it. But even the more sober, who contend for the tessellated composition of the Pentateuch, have as yet presented no evidence but what can be better accounted for otherwise: especially as they confess “a unity of plan, a coherence of parts, a shapeliness, and an order “ which satisfy them that, as e.g. Genesis stands, it is the creation of a single mind. Is it not forgotten that the opening chapters for instance, largely at least, could not have been narrated by Adam himself any more than by Moses from personal knowledge? God necessarily must have communicated the account of creation, as also of the flood, two of the parts most attacked, and one might add with least reason, by infidel temerity.
On the peculiar use of the divine names, and a certain accompanying difference of style, we need not enter much, as this is noticed frequently in its place. I need only say that the Jehovah-Elohim section (Gen. 2:4 — Gen. 3) presupposes the so-called Elohistic one that precedes, as both are assumed in what follows; and the difference of motive truly and fully accounts for all; and that it is the very reverse of the fact that the name of Elohim almost ceases to be characteristic of whole sections after Ex. 6:2; Ex. 7:7. On the contrary, it holds good wherever similarly required throughout not the Pentateuch only but the Psalms (compare books first and second) and the Prophets (see Jonah especially). It is impossible to account for all the facts (not to say for any of them) by the documentary or fragmentary hypothesis.
But it is worthy of note that the Lord distinctly attributes to Moses not merely the substance but the writing of Deuteronomy. (Mark 10:5.) There can be no doubt that the Pharisees refer to the injunction in Deuteronomy 24; on which the Lord declares that not “a later writer” but “Moses wrote you this precept.” How grievous the unbelief then which does not tremble to say after such an utterance, “it is certain that Moses himself could not have written the book of Deuteronomy, nor made such changes in the old legislation as are contained in the discourses of the book!” To say that the work was impossible to one whose eye was not dimmed nor his natural force fled till he died is unwise. Besides, had it been otherwise, or had he seen fit as it was, an amanuensis (one or more) would not detract any more from Moses’ writings than Tertius did from Paul’s.
As to the fact of changes, such as Numbers 18:18 compared with Deuteronomy 12:17, 18; Deuteronomy 15:19, 20, they are due to the difference in the character and object of the books: the one having the wilderness in view; the other the settlement in the land, where we see not only the importance given to the central place of worship which Jehovah their God would choose, but also the joining of all, including the priests, the Levites, in the exulting joy of blessings already possessed. To infer, from the circumstance of Moses addressing the people in the affecting form of a homiletic recapitulation, that he of his own motion rescinded what Jehovah had ordained, is as wanton as to deny Jehovah’s title to modify according to moral design in a changed state of things. Yet this puerility is made much of more than once.7
It may be also observed that the Lord Jesus (Matt. 19:4, 5) attributes to God the words cited from Gen. 2:24: “He which made them . . . . said, For this cause shall a man leave father,’’ etc. It was Moses that wrote; but it was God speaking none the less. Rationalism denies both through confiding in an ignis fatuus of criticism.
But the inspired apostles also are explicit. Thus Peter (Acts 3:22, 23) cites the famous passage as to the prophet from Deut. 18, and affirms that Moses said so. Rationalism shrinks neither from refusing the book to Moses nor from declaring that the correct interpretation rejects all but the one sense — the succession of prophets or prophetic order in general, while it allows the adaptation to Jesus to be reasonable, or an argumentum ad hominem! To minds of this bias it adds no more weight that Stephen too quotes it as the language of Moses, and with evident reference to the Messiah. (Acts 7:37)
Paul again cites freely from the law, and in the same chapter of Romans (10:5, 19) cites twice from portions in a sense diametrically opposed to neological criticism: in the former, Lev. 18:5; in the latter, Deut. 32:21, which it relegates to two different and much later writers. It is not a question of Paul as a man, but of Paul writing in the Spirit. Did not He know the truth? Has He told it? We cannot speak of the Holy Spirit thinking this or that: He knew all. To suppose that He did not know is as false as that He kept up a fiction is impious. No, it is only man who has deceived himself again through trusting his own thoughts against the plain word of God.
1 Cor. 10:1-11 is a passage of much moment for the consideration and correction of those influenced against the theopneustic or inspired character of the history of Exodus and Numbers. The passage of the Red Sea is denied to be literal history. The cloud; the manna; the water from the smitten rock; the punishment of the murmurers, etc., are viewed as more or less legendary. The apostle affirms that all these things happened to them as types, and that they are written for our admonition. Thus he attaches a divinely prophetic character to the accounts which rationalism slights. Ought it to be a question whether the apostle or a neologian has the mind of God?
Heb. 11 is quite as weighty a test, and yet more comprehensive in its survey of the Pentateuch and the historical books of the Old Testament. The apostle (verse 3) accepts creation as a literal fact; the rationalist endeavours to show “its mythical character.” But both Prof. Powell and Dr. Davidson misstate the case in order to place Gen. 1 in opposition to facts. It is not correct that “the chapter can only convey the idea of one grand creative act, of a common and simultaneous origin of the whole material world, terrestrial and celestial, together with all its parts and appendages, as it now stands, accomplished in obedience to the divine fiat, in a certain order and by certain stages, in six equal successive periods,” etc. So the late Mr. P., in whose wake follows Dr. D., who says that “the first verse of Genesis is a summary account of the six days’ work which follows in detail. On the first creative day God produced the matter of the world, and caused light to arise out of it. Hence it is implied that the world was created only about six thousand years ago. But geology teaches most incontrovertibly that the world must have existed during a long period prior to the races of organized beings now occupying its surface. Thus geology and scripture come into collision as to the age of the earth.”8
I affirm, on the contrary, that Moses was inspired so to write Gen. 1:1-3 as to avoid with the greatest precision and certainty the very error which these writers attribute to him. It is easy to see their desire to array geology against the Bible. But the incontrovertible fact is, that the usus loquendi proves that the first verse is not a summary of what follows in the six days’ work, but an initiatory act sui generis, the groundwork of all that follows no doubt, and as distinct from verse 2 as both clearly are from verse 3, where the first day’s work begins. The copulative vau connects each verse, but of itself in no way forbids an immense space, which depends on the nature of the case where no specification of time enters. In the first two verses there is no limitation whatever; and hence in these instances all is open indefinitely. Had the conjunction (which I translate “and” in all these cases, not “but”) been wanting, the idea of a summary heading would have naturally followed in accordance with the phraseology elsewhere, as at the beginning of Gen. 5; Gen. 6:9, etc.; Gen. 10:1, etc., passim; Gen. 11:10, etc., 27, etc.; Gen. 25:12-17, 19, etc.; Gen. 35:22-26; Gen. 36:1, etc., passim; Gen. 46:8, etc., passim; Exodus 1, 6, etc. It is needless to pursue the proof. It is the necessary phraseology not of Hebrew only but of every conceivable language. In no tongue could one rightly prefix such a clause as Gen. 1:1 as “a summary account of the six days’ work.”
The truth is that the first verse of the chapter states with noble simplicity the creation of the universe — not of matter on the first day, but of the heavens and the earth — without the smallest note of days. There is another and wholly different notation of time, “in the beginning,” reaching back to the farthest point when God caused (not crude matter, nor chaos, but) the heavens and the earth to be. The second verse coupled with it describes, as even Dr. D. admits, a state of chaos or destruction, but not universal; for the earth only, not the heavens, was the scene of the utter confusion. I am surprised that a sensible man did not see the incongruity of this with his previous position, and still more with the admirably perfect statement of verse 1. Contrary to the style of Moses, and to the genius of Hebrew and indeed of universal grammar, he asserts the first verse to be a summary of the entire six days’ work. But if so, such a summary cannot be the bare creation of matter. For matter is not said to be produced on any one of these days, but contrariwise its previous existence is assumed throughout their course from first to last. On the other hand, if he says that verse 1 means the production of matter, he abandons his own thesis that it is a synoptical view of the six days’ work. Does he then take verse 2 as God producing the matter of the world? How, if so, can it also mean universal chaos or destruction? Perhaps he thinks that the first clause of verse 2 means this, and that the last points to the production of matter; but here again he is entangled in the strange conclusion that the universal chaos or destruction — destruction of what? — precedes the production of matter. If he concede, as I think he must on reconsideration, that God producing the matter of the world is not the meaning either of the first or of the last clause of verse 2, it follows that his exposition is fundamentally erroneous, and that matter must have been produced before, unless he fall back on the Aristotelian absurdity of eternal matter, which is a virtual denial of creation in the proper sense, and indeed betrays an atheistic root. From this he saves himself by the statement that “on the first creative day God produced the matter of the world, and caused light to arise out of it.” The reader, however, has only to read the record in order to see that Dr. D. interpolates here the production of matter without the least warrant from the inspired account of the first day, and contrary to the clear intimation of the verses that precede it. The production of matter is supposed before the chaos of verse 2, and is involved in the creation of verse 1.
Thus scripture is more exact than the natural philosophy of Mr. Baden Powell, or the system of Aristotle, or the exegesis of Dr. S. Davidson. It asserts the grave truth of the creation of the heavens and the earth, but expressly not “as it now stands,” nor with the “parts and appendages” which were found in the days which preceded Adam. We have no connection of day or night in this earliest phase, any more than the state of disruption and ruin that is described so graphically in verse 2. Vast tracts of time may have passed ere verse 3 — not “innumerable periods of past duration in one unbroken chain of regular changes.”9 But Dr. D. is ill-informed in the facts which geology is slowly building up into a consistent science, if he ignores the proofs of repeated and extraordinary breaks and upheavals, when anarchy was again followed by fresh creative energy, and then by order. So it was, if Mr. D’Orbigny and other men of the highest reputation may be trusted, for some thirty successive and stupendous revolutions of this earth before the week when man stands at the head of a suited realm subjected to him by the Creator.
But the reader, who desires to find a calm and full and exact exposition of the facts can find it in D’Orbigny’s “Cours de Paléontologie et de Géologie Stratigraphiques,’’ especially chapter 9 vol. 2. pp. 251-258. There is hardly a finer instance of patient induction, nor a more distinct contradiction of the alleged law of continuity, and this without an allusion to Genesis or a thought beyond the largest collection of the facts of geological science known to me. Even the tertiary period alone he shows must be divided into five distinct successions, and in them, of 6042 species 91 only common to two or more, but all distinct from the existing species of the Adamic earth. “Une première création s’est montrée avec l’étage silurien. Aprés l’anéantissement de celle-ci, par une cause géologique quelconque, aprés un laps de temps considérable, une seconde création a en lieu dans l’étage devonien; et successivement vingt-sept fois des créations distinctes sont venues repeupler toute la terre de ses plantes et de ses animaux, à la suite de chaque perturbation géologique qui avait tout détruit dans la nature vivante. Tel est le fait nous bornons à constater, sans chercher à percer le mystère surhumain qui l’environne.” This witness is true; but the Bible conducts the simplest believer with sure foot and opened eyes where the mere man of science finds himself arrested by an impenetrable veil. Scripture asserts original creation, and then destruction: how often renewals and destructions may have followed it does not say; but, having given us the key to both facts, it does tell us, what it most concerned us morally to learn, the details of the construction of the world where the human race was to be tried and fall, where the Creator was to become in sovereign grace the woman’s Seed, and by His suffering and death win more than was lost for the creature’s blessing to the glory of God.
It is granted that the Bible does not reveal these sequences of order and convulsion. But it shows us the principle of both in verses 1 and 2 anterior to the Adamic earth. This was enough for us to know; and this we know more clearly and certainly from these few words of scripture than science ever taught till very lately. In fact some geologists seem recently in danger of overlooking the best established facts of their own and all other science, and of drifting into that strange delusion — the Darwinian form of Lamarckian development which necessari1y destroys faith in creation altogether.
But Genesis leaves room for all the changes, calm or violent, which passed over this earth before the race. Creation, and creation of the universe, verse 1 does state; how long it went on, and with what changes, till the state of chaos described in verse 2, we are not informed. Let science tell if she can. There is ample space here without danger of collision: God has effectually guarded against the mistakes of hasty expositors, friends or enemies. Verse 3 begins the account of the days; and here, after a chaos (we know not how long or often), we hear of light caused to be on the first day. The state of things is so contrasted in each of the verses that the conjunction which simply introduces each new statement can produce no difficulty whatever.
Far from contradicting the large bearing of verse 1, texts such as Gen. 14:19-29, 20:11, Exodus 31:17, 2 Peter 3:13, can in no way be restrained to “the earth itself.” It is careless to confound the making of heaven and earth in six days (which I grant is always for Adam) with the original creation of verse 1. Gen. 2:4 speak of both. As to the objection founded on animals of previous states seeing, and plants too requiring light, before the work of the first day or of the fourth, it suffices to say that not a word implies that light was created, or the heavenly bodies either, on these days. Light was caused to act, as the luminaries later still. But of the geologic periods, after creation but antecedent to the earth made for man in six days, we have nothing either affirmed or denied, though in my opinion the strikingly guarded language leaves room for all. The statements of Dr. D. are as unfounded in science as they are careless in taking account of the exactitude of scripture.
That the sense just given to the inspired account of creation is unforced and exact, it would require hardihood to question; so it would to deny the looseness of the rationalistic interpretation, inconsistent as it also is with itself and with facts, and thus exhibiting the usual faults of what is wholly misunderstood. I advocate no stooping to a barely admissible meaning, nor call in the wisdom of the world to ascertain the force of scripture. The believer need neither court nor fear human science. Nowhere however has a single fact of geology been proved to be at variance with the words of Moses: those who affirm it have only exposed themselves, whether they attack or apologise for Gen. 1:1-3.
Further, from Gen. 2:4 we have the necessary complement of chapter 1. The terms of the fourth verse though a most natural commencement of another aspect which follows with fresh particulars of the greatest moral weight, refer unmistakably to what had been already written. It is certainly not a summary of what is to come, for this does not describe the production of the heavens and the earth, but introduces us to the transitional state of things before rain fell or man was there to till the ground; it then gives us the specific difference which is the ground of human responsibility, and therefore forthwith describes the garden of Eden with its two trees, where the first Adam was about to be tried. It is plain accordingly that Gen. 2:4, while it gives a retrospective glance at chapter 1 with its orderly chart of the creation, leads us into the scene of relationships. Even according to the earlier outline, far from being lost in the graduated series of creative acts, the pre-eminent place of man in the scale of the creature is carefully guarded for male and female — of man made in the image of God,10 after His likeness, with dominion over the fish and birds and cattle and earth and reptiles, not worshipping them all like the sages of Egypt. But the detailed formation of man, in his body from the dust of the ground, in his soul from Jehovah-Elohim’s breathing into his nostrils (alone of living creatures) the source of an immortal immaterial nature proper to him, is found in the later account only. Here too we have his various relations not only to the subordinate creatures to which he gave names as their lord, but to his wife (who was built up peculiarly out of Adam’s body as he slept), and above all to Him Who set the man in a position of such singular honour, though necessarily of commensurate responsibility.
In Gen. 3 accordingly the issue of the trial soon appears. Abruptly and mysteriously an enemy of God and man enters, and by his subtle insinuations deceives the woman, who in turn becomes the instrument of the man’s disobedience. It is a simple but profound, and the only satisfactory solution of the problem on which human philosophy and religion have laboured in vain, on which all have made shipwreck who have not submitted to the word of God. It can surprise none that it is the same serpent playing his old deceits and destroying souls by the hope of knowing good and evil as God, yea better if they refuse His account for their own thoughts, even though they yield no more than that coldest and most irreverent of results, negative criticism. Satan, availing himself of “the serpent,” thus dragged down our first parents into sin and ruin not for themselves only but for the lower creation dependent on Adam’s maintenance of his relation to God, as also for the race yet to be born.
Does not this approve itself as worthy of God? Is it not in harmony not only with all the Old Testament, but only more conspicuously with the New? The earliest inspired account reveals God creating and fashioning the universe in wisdom and goodness no less than omnipotent power, the earth in detail as man’s abode to whom the world is given. But man is tried and fails irretrievably as far as original innocence and Eden are concerned, but not without righteous conviction, not without a judgment which accounts for the great present facts of humanity even to the difference of woman’s lot from man’s, yet with their common sentence of death and the sorrowful change which has passed over the creation now subjected to vanity and groans; but not without the gracious revelation of a Deliverer, who should be in some special sense Seed of the woman, yet (after suffering) conqueror of the enemy the serpent, who had done this foul and otherwise fatal dishonour to God as well as man.
Without this key what have the greatest wits of this world made of it all? I do not speak only of monstrous cosmogony, or the (if possible) still falser and less rational assertion of the world’s eternity. But take the mental workings of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle; nay take the latest philosophic enemies, who have stolen all their best from the Bible but who have not learnt its first lesson, without which all is vain — that fear of Jehovah which is the beginning of wisdom. But what have any ancients or moderns said up to this day to be named in comparison of the Mosaic account, which ungrateful rationalism would fain behead, draw, and quarter? Sin and ruin, suffering and death, are facts in God’s earth as it is: inspiration did not make them; rationalism cannot unmake them. To suppose that a Being of infinite power and goodness made the race and the earth as they are is to imply an absurdity, which philosophy (where it admits God at all) accepts. But scripture is in no way responsible for a conclusion which is opposed not only to His word but to all right reason and sound morality, for mind and conscience cannot but own the truth when revealed, though superstition and philosophy essay to explain it away again. Such a Demi-urge as every system supposes but scripture (or what follows scripture) would be a malicious demon, not the true God.
Bow to Gen. 1 - 3 and the difficulty is explained, yet even then just as it ought to be, in the measure of our faith. “If thine eye be single, thy whole body is full of light:” the want of this is the real source of confusion, error, contradiction and every other fault which rationalists love to heap on the Bible. These exist in their own minds and system, not in God’s word. It is impossible to understand scripture without seeing the divine design which accounts for distinct aspects, repetitions, and all the other peculiarities over which they ignorantly stumble. God, being love, is considerate of the poor, the lowly, the young, the old, while He puts down the haughty who count themselves learned and deep, wise and prudent. He has revealed Himself in writings whose unity of thought and moral purpose, is only and infinitely more striking because they consist of books in more than one language, and spread over the greatest variety of writers through fifteen centuries. Hence, whether dealing by law through Moses, or by grace in His Son one-half in both Old Testament and New consists of facts profoundly instructive for the most reflective, but withal coming down to the level of a child. Only God could have done or thought of this beforehand: now that it is before us in the Bible, we can see that there is nothing like it (save in poor measure what is borrowed from it) for simplicity or for depth, for rising up to God or for coming down to the secrets of man’s heart.
What reader can fail, for example, to see that God made all around and above Adam and pronounced it all very good; that man the chief and most favoured of all in a paradise (not such as blind Mahometanism holds out but of purity and innocence) disobeyed Him who gave him all and tried him by the least conceivable test, and thus brought in the vanity and death of all this lower creation? Who can be deaf to the solemn voice that searches out the truth from lips which, spite of deceit and insolence, cannot but condemn themselves? Who can forget the accents of grace implied even in the hopeless condemnation of the arch-foe, and assuring the guilty of a Saviour who must suffer first but at last crush the serpent’s head? None but the rationalist; none but the man who prefers his own reasonings to scripture, — himself the first man to Christ the Second and last Adam.
The unreasonableness and utter poverty of the separate document-hypothesis is also plain by joining Gen. 5 to the end of Gen. 2:3. What can be more meagre? The entrance of death is unaccounted for, the moral trial in Eden is lost, sin is left out, and God’s ways as to it: the prophetic revelation of the Saviour and of the destruction of Satan’s power is gone; the solemn history of Cain and Abel disappears; also faith in a sacrifice, and this the index and accompaniment of righteousness, God testifying of the gifts; the suffering of the godly; the worldliness and progress in material things of those who are far from God. And Seth is introduced in a way which derives an immense accession of weight from the intervening chapters, if even it be really intelligible without them.
On the other hand, if the entire narrative be taken as a whole, consisting of distinct parts, each having its own definite character, yet only seen in their proper value as conspiring from different points to the one result, how immense the gain in beauty, force, and harmony! Creation properly falls under Elohim; the relationship of man and his trial and fall, as well as the ruin and creation, under Jehovah-Elohim; the discrimination of the just from the unjust, both morally and above all in worship, with the issues here below, under Jehovah, the distinctive name of God in the government of man on the earth. Genesis 5 returns naturally to Elohim since the perpetuation of the line from Adam is in question, but with Jehovah in verse 29 where we see special relationship.
Dr. Perowne 11 thinks that the alleged design in the use of the divine names will not bear a close examination. Not so; it only seems to fail, I venture to say, for want of a searching analysis. He allows that it does suit the earlier chapters, but not Noah’s history, on comparing Genesis 6:7 with 8: why say, argues he, that “Noah found grace in the eyes of Jehovah,” yet that he “walked with Elohim”? Now he might have seen in Genesis 5:23, 24, that the expression “walked with God” is not casual but designed. Not only is it appropriate to simple historical mention, but to moral contrast with those characterised by the violence and corruption of all flesh in the earth (Gen. 11, 12). Jehovah is required where not nature but relative feelings and position are meant to be conveyed. The principle is true in the New Testament equally as in the Old. Thus our Lord Himself always says “Father” in His life or ministry; He says “God” on the cross when bearing the judgment of sin, against which all that God is in holy antagonism was arrayed; He says both when He arose from the dead and placed His disciples in His own place and relationship as far as this could be, now that sin was put away by the sacrifice of Himself, and He could take the place formally of a quickening Spirit in resurrection. So John’s epistles employ “God” and “Father “ concerning the Christian with invariable distinctiveness and propriety. It is evident to me then that to “walk with God” is just the right phrase for moral character; while we may also see, by comparing verses 5 and 12, that the introduction of His special relationship applies a more severe and intimate test.
Again, the other cases Dr. P. has named (Gen. 6:21, 22; Gen. 7:5, 9) are plain examples used from internal motives, while Gen. 7:16 exposes the futility of referring the matter to distinct documents. In the former Elohim speaks with authority of destroying creation, preserving as Creator only enough to perpetuate species. In the latter He reveals what became Him in special connection with Noah; but even there, where care of the creature only is in question, we read of “the male and the female as Elohim commanded Noah,” “male and female of all flesh as Elohim had commanded; and Jehovah shut him in.” The change in the last is plain and necessary, as in verse 6 also, closing the directions which provide for the exigencies of sacrifice in the “clean” beasts and birds preserved not by a pair but by sevens. The existence of both titles in the same verse is most unnatural on the document-hypothesis, but as explicable as elsewhere when we see that a divine design guides from internal reasons in every case.12
Such then is the true explanation of the duplicate accounts, as they have been styled. If difference of authors or of documents had any real evidence, it in no way covers the facts; it really introduces mere imagination to set aside the positive declarations of the Lord and the apostles, who attribute to Moses expressly what a groundless fancy distributes among 2, 3, 5, 10, or even more imaginary writers of the disjecta membra of the Pentateuch severed from each other by considerable intervals of time.
It would not be edifying to discuss too minutely the neology of Dr. Davidson’s book, chiefly culled from German sources: a few specimens must suffice. To him the Fall, for instance, is a national mythus. The apostle repeatedly treats it as a fact of the gravest import, which none can slight with impunity. (2 Cor. 11; 1 Tim. 2) But what of that? Paul knew nothing of the higher criticism, and must be condoned for his ignorance. The nature of the serpent, the manner in which he is said to have proceeded, the dialogue between him and Eve, the sentence pronounced, militate against that mode, the apostolic mode, of interpretation! Thus, however plain the scriptures, these men are not ashamed to count it a vulgar error if one insist on their authority and sacredness. It has nothing, say they, to do with personal religion; it conduces in their judgment to a right view of inspiration if one accepts their word that the Bible abounds in almost every sort of error on the one hand, and on the other that all religious men were counted inspired. Talk no more of Paul in the first century: did not “the immortal De Wette” come to opposite conclusions so long ago as the year 1805? Paul, no doubt, treats the history as the origin of man’s universal sinfulness (Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:21, 22); but why heed so antiquated an idea? The Anglo-German scribe had not yet appeared to expound aright the philosophical myth in which a reflecting Israelite sets forth his views on the origin of evil! Such, my reader, is the spirit of modern rationalism.
Of course the apostle’s use of Genesis 4 in Hebrews 11:4 is of no account. It is an accommodation. We are told by our new oracle that the “mythic view of the first three chapters is corroborated by the succeeding narrative.” Genesis 4 “presupposes a different theory of the origination of mankind” — this because of verse 14, and the supposed inconsistency of verses 2 and 20! The infatuation of this pseudo-criticism culminates in the judgment that the Sethite line in Gen. 5 and the Cainite one in Genesis 4:17, 18 “are parallel accounts resolvable into one and the same genealogy!”
The solemn account of antediluvian apostasy and corruption in Gen. 6 is naturally treated with levity; and the flood (Gen. 7, 8) affords the usual material for free handling. “What gave rise to the mythus was the yearly inundations which happen in most countries..... If the account of the deluge be a poetical myth, it is of no importance to inquire whether the catastrophe was partial or universal. . . . . . Authentic (!) Egyptian history [for with these men Egyptian history (?) is authentic, scripture is not] ignores the existence of a general flood, to which there is no allusion in the annals from the epoch of Menes the founder of the kingdom of Egypt, B.C. 3463 (!), till its conquest under Darius Ochus, B.C. 340; whereas the period of the Noachian deluge is said to be about 2348 B.C.” I presume that the writer is not much acquainted with these matters, and that he means Baron Bunsen’s date for the accession of Menes, B.C. 3643. But the reader should know that in the same work the world’s history before Christ is set down at twenty thousand years, and that Egypt is supposed to have been ruled provincially for more than five thousand years before Menes. On such a scale, in contempt of all that is known in or out of the Bible, one must consider that it is a moderate flight in this imaginative system to claim for Menes no more than a few centuries before the flood. It may be added that the basis of it is a passage of Syncellus, and a manifest error, as has been shown by others. But there is no need of learning or logic here; for the divine testimony of Christ has sealed the truth of the flood as an authentic fact, and a most solemn warning to unbelief. (See Matt. 24:37-39; Luke 17:26, 27.) The apostles Paul (Heb. 11:7) and Peter (1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5) have confirmed the witness to it, if this were wanted.
The freest thinker will not complain that, when I cite the testimony of Baron Bunsen, he is likely to give an opinion unfairly to the prejudice of Egyptian records as compared with the Old Testament. “The written character is prolix; the repetition of fixed phrases makes it still more so. Little is lost by occasional lacunae; but comparatively little advance is made by what is preserved. There are few words in a line, and, what is still worse, little is said in a great many lines. Inscriptions on public buildings were not intended to convey historical information. They consist of panegyrics on the king and praises of the gods, to each of whom all imaginable titles of honour are given. Historical facts are thrown into the shade as something paltry, casual, incidental, by the side of such pompous phraseology as Lords of the World, Conquerors of the North, Tamers of the South, Destroyers of all the Unclean, and all their enemies. The case of the papyri is certainly different. But written history, such as the historical books of the Old Testament, so far as our knowledge of their writings goes, was certainly unknown to the old Egyptians.”
Let us briefly review a quantity of smaller points. The unbelieving criticism on the earlier chapters of Genesis has been noticed the more, as being in fact the most confidently urged, and, if refuted, involving the rejection of much the greater part of the rest. Subsequent insertions, brief and rare as they are, are rather a confirmation than a weakening of the Mosaic authorship, and in no way an infringement of inspiration, which is a far more important thing; for all were equally inspired of God, whether Moses or Samuel, Ezra, Jeremiah, or any other prophet. The Book of Proverbs is a clear instance, where a large and important addition at a later epoch than that of its earlier portion is avowed. But it is not certain that some of the notices supposed to be of this kind were not original, as, for instance, Gen. 13:18, etc. One can easily understand the original name, for a time overlaid by the name of Arba, finally restored; and we can conceive a curious coincidence in the name of Dan, as it seems to have been an element in Jor-dan and Dan-jaan, apart from the tribe.
The passage in Gen. 36 (verse 31) on which most stress has been laid seems to be undoubtedly of Moses. To call the notice of kings that reigned in Edom “before there reigned any king over the land of Israel” a trifling proposition13 is not only irreverence, but evinces that fatal defect of all rationalists — the absence of moral perception. Israel had the promise of kings, which Esau had not; yet Esau had many successive kings long before a sign of royalty was seen in the object of that promise. Had the passage been written after Saul or David’s line began to reign, the phraseology would have been different not “any” or “a” king, but “the king” or “the kings.”
Again, Ex. 16:35, 36; Ex. 22:29; Lev. 26:34, 35, 43; Deut. 19:14, are only difficult to one who denies the essential claim of scripture. Lev. 18:28 is cleared in its true sense by simply reading verses 24, 25. Num. 15:32 is quite plain if written, as it probably was, in the plains of Moab. Gen. 40:15 is most natural on the lips of Joseph looking back on the land where his father and himself were once together, aud designating it by “the Hebrews” — a name familiar among the Gentiles.
Nor do notices of ancient inhabitants or actual rulers and their history, as in Deut. 2, 3, present the smallest difficulty. They are of the highest interest in themselves, and Moses might well speak and write of them.
Exodus 6:26 has nothing to do with the lapse of a considerable time after Moses, but is due to the sense of God’s condescension in using such men by the writer who was one of the two. This may seem trifling to a modern critic: what does the pettifoggery (and, as far as I have had leisure to sift, very incorrect minims) seem to those who rejoice in the divine truth of God’s dealings with man for this world and for eternity? So, if the Bible were a human book, such texts as Exodus 11:3, Numbers 12:7, might seem strange. Nevertheless the history proves their strict truth; and the language of Paul in 2 Cor. 11 may cause one to hesitate in counting them later additions by Ezra or some other authorised hand, as no one doubts of the formula “unto this day.” But none of these in the smallest degree touches the claim of Moses to have written the Pentateuch by inspiration.
It is not only that the “higher criticism “ fails to explain justly the divine names, and does not pretend to any remark on their employment beyond the superficial and, as we have seen, unfounded notion of different dates, but another notable trait is its extreme carelessness, and, I must say, its misstatements as to alleged matter of fact. Thus even opponents of neology are too apt to repeat the assumption that the supposed Elohist always says “pad-an” or “pad-an a’-ram”, not “a’-ram gaharam[?]” like the supposed Jehovist. Now the fact is that Padan occurs but once (Gen. 48:7) in an address opened and therefore governed by the name El-Shaddai, the distinctive title of relationship to the patriarchs. Next the very first occurrence of Padan-aram is in Genesis 25:20, where it is severed from Elohim by seven verses (12-18), which set forth the generations of Ishmael and his sons, and where it has in its own immediate sequence and connection (ver. 21) the name of Jehovah. In Genesis 28:2 it is followed in the next verse not by Elohim but by El-Shaddai, though after that no doubt comes Elohim. But Jehovah appears repeatedly in the middle of the same short chapter, as does Elohim at the close. The only criticism therefore to which the new school can resort is the very mechanical device of the scissors, by which they divide these few verses, though bound up intimately, among at least three different writers: — verses 1-9, the Elohist (which does not at all account for the quite distinct title of El-Shaddai); 10-12, 17-22, the junior Elohist (which overlooks the most emphatic use of Jehovah in the chapter, ver. 21); and 13-16, the redactor. Why the Jehovist should be discarded and the compiler or editor substituted where the Jehovah title is so prominent is not explained or apparent. But such is the artificial hypothesis which Dr. D. borrows from his German leaders. Genesis 31:18 is the next occurrence of Padan-aram, which here follows Jehovah’s word to Jacob. Jacob calls him repeatedly God; but it is impossible to deny that the passage turns on what Jehovah said (ver. 3). The ground taken therefore is wholly false; an the attempt to cut out verse 18 for the Elohist, and to assign the rest of the chapter to the younger Elohist, the Jehovist and the redactor, as Dr. D. does,14 only proves the desperation as well as the poverty of thought to which such criticism reduces its partisans. In Genesis 33:18 Padan-aram occurs again, but the title with which it stands most nearly connected is the remarkable compound El-elohe-Israel, which is certainly not purely Elohistic on their system. But singularly enough Dr. D. seems here to have forgotten his lesson himself (i. 59), for he distributes this verse 18 between the Jehovist and the redactor, giving the latter the clause containing the name, which in p. 27 he confines to the Elohist. And this is criticism! Genesis 35:9, 26 Dr. D. has mangled to the utmost limits of the hypothesis, for he cuts it up among all the four imaginary writers of this book. It is impossible, however, to deny the distinctive force in the chapter of El and El-Shaddai which are not Elohistic: so exactly of Genesis 46:15, the last occurrence, save that El-Shaddai is not here.
On the other hand, the basis for pronouncing Aramnaharaim Jehovistic is of the weakest, as the reader will feel when assured that it occurs but twice in all the five books of Moses, Genesis 24:10, Deut. 23:4. Even in this word the same fatality of error haunts the neologian; for one of the only three occurrences of the word outside the Pentateuch is in the title to Psalm 60, one of the most intensely Elohistic compositions in the Bible. Besides, it is not at all proved that Padan-aram is identical with Aramnaharaim. The high land of the two rivers may well include the ploughed highland or plateau of Syria, though both might with sufficient accuracy for ordinary use be translated Mesopotamia. Aram, simply, is the most comprehensive term of all, and occurs but once in the Pentateuch (Num. 23:7) distinctly in the sense of a country, and this in Balaam’s speech, who uses Elohim, Jehovah, Elion, and Shaddai in such a way as puts to the rout the idea of a Jehovistic document.
I grant that, in general, terms expressive of natural species, distinctions of sex, generations (save in an exceptional case such as Gen. 2:4), historic specifications of time, etc. occur in scriptures where Elohim is used rather than Jehovah. But this flows from the nature of things, and must therefore be on the supposition that Moses wrote the five books. It is a question of propriety and exactness of speech, not of different documents. For in describing for instance natural production, or the perpetuation of the creature, or facts as such, Elohim is required, and the name of special relationship would be out of place.
Again, we are told that “establish a covenant,” is the Elohistic expression, the Jehovistic “to make (literally ‘cut’) a covenant.” Now, not to say more of Genesis 17:7, 19, the strongest evidence possible against the exclusive Elohism of the first formula is, that it is employed in immediate sequence after the formal revelation of the name of Jehovah. (Exodus 6:2-4.) I am aware that our scissors-critics never fail for want of boldness, and that Dr. D. ventures to bracket this very passage to the redactor in verse 1, and to the Elohist in verses 2-7, leaving verse 8 to the Jehovist. But to treat scripture thus, to represent the passage as such an ill-assorted farrago, is mere wilfulness, and contrary to their own principle which professes to draw its proofs wholly from internal evidence. For, if so, nothing can be more certain than the Jehovistic character of this chapter, though care is taken, as we have seen elsewhere, to show that Elohim is Jehovah, as well as El-Shaddai, henceforward to be looked to nationally according to all that the name of Jehovah implies as their God. Ezekiel 16:6, 62 cannot be pretended to be Elohistic. So as to the alternative form, [establish a covenant], it occurs twice only in the Pentateuch, Genesis 9:12, Num. 25:12. Of this last chapter I am aware that Dr. D. calls verses 1-5 Jehovistic, 6-18 Elohistic. The best answer is to read verses 10-12, which open thus: “And Jehovah spake.” As to the exclusively Jehovistic phrase, the disproof is equally sure. (See Gen. 21:27, 32.) Junior or senior, it is Elohistic, contrary to the alleged distinction. It occurs again in Genesis 31:44, which is certainly not Jehovistic; though I am not able to make out how Dr. D. (58, 59) tabulates verses 43-47. He assigns parts of 41 and 48 to his redactor. At any rate the use here contradicts the system. So the connection is Elohistic, not Jehovistic, in Ezra 10:3; Psalm 83:5. In short the reader has only to sift in order to prove how unfounded is the hypothesis and its conclusions.
I do not judge it to be called for just now to examine all the other phrases supposed to characterize the Elohistic or the Jehovistic passages15 respectively. But of this the reader may be assured, that it is wise in no case, were it the most immaterial statement, to trust the assertions of rationalism. Even where there may be a true element, it is invariably misapplied and in general exaggerated to the last degree. Thus much is made of “possession;” and “land of sojournings,” as “peculiarly Elohistic.” Unfortunately for the theory, their first occurrence in the same chapter and in the same verse (Gen. 17:8) disproves the assertion, unless indeed one is weak enough to allow a chapter to be counted Elohistic which begins thus: “And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, Jehovah appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am El-Shaddai,” etc. How can this be Elohistic, either elder or younger? It begins with Jehovah revealing Himself to Abram by that special name in which he and the other fathers had to walk, and then showed Himself to be none other than Elohim (ver. 12, 15, 18, 19), which was of the utmost importance. One could hardly conceive of a more satisfactory disproof of distinct documents as well as of confining the phrases cited to Elohistic passages. Any good Hebrew concordance will multiply cases of it.
Another remark may be here made, and not without cause. The uncertainty of these speculations is such that hardly two rationalists agree tolerably, nay, hardly one agrees with himself for any length of time even, as to broad outlines and points of very great importance. Thus Dr. Davidson, in his contribution to the tenth edition of Horne’s Introduction, contended for two documents, the Elohistic of Joshua’s day, and the Jehovistic during the Judges, which he supposed to have been combined in one work under Saul’s or David’s reign. What is of still greater moment, he then ascribed the authorship of Deuteronomy to Moses. Traditional orthodoxy may have yet exercised a check on his mind; for one can hardly speak of faith, when in six years all was changed for the worse in his own Introduction to which reference has so often been made. I am far from insinuating that the author did not believe what he wrote in his second volume for the late Mr. Horne’s work. But one can only save his honesty by blaming both the extreme want of judgment in questions of very great consequence (for the denial of this, i. 129, will satisfy none but the light-minded), and the instability which could make such a revolution in so short a space. Were it a stripling, allowance might be made for inexperience or the influence of stronger minds: As it is, even a heathen could say, facilis descensus Averni.
The pretentiousness which accompanies the worst insinuations against God’s word, when these rest on the flimsiest of reasons, is deeply painful. Every one in the least familiar with the manner in which the Holy Spirit has deigned to instruct us in scripture knows that it is frequently by taking up the same subject and presenting another line of association, so as to give us the truth fully through viewing it on all sides. Not otherwise do the wisest men, as far as their small measure is capable of a method so exhaustive. Instances of this we may see frequently, not only in the five books of Moses, but in every part of the scriptures, and nowhere more conspicuously than in the inspired accounts of our Lord; for it is true of whole books, as well as of retracings of particular themes within them. One can easily understand the lack of spiritual perception which overlooks such a mode of instruction. But what can one think of those who fear not to sit in judgment on what, just because it is divine, must be beyond the natural mind; and who, instead of looking to God that the entrance of His words might give the needed light, venture to speak of an author, in such a case, stultifying himself by announcing an important distinction which he had uniforlmy observed in certain sections and as uniformly violated in others?
It is a joy on the other hand to learn on, I suppose good authority that De Wette, speculative as he once was, I will not say led captive every thought to the obedience of Christ, but certainly turned to Him and His blood, with much simplicity some time before his decease; and that the late Baron Bunsen, after a career of theorising on scripture almost wilder than Origen’s, found rest at last in that Saviour who alone can and does give it to the weary and heavy-laden.
On the whole, then, no support is given by any or all such passages to the scheme of Astruc, who deserves no credit for a critical eye, but rather reprobation for yielding to an unbridled imagination, which has already wrought no small mischief among his followers; and so much the more because, untaught and ill-established in divine truth, they sometimes expend great industry and ample erudition on the mere surface of the scriptures which they wrest to their own destruction, as ignorant of their object as of their scope and depth.
Another opportunity may offer to prove how far the minute philology applied to Deuteronomy really weakens Moses’ title to have written it. I am satisfied myself that the phenomena supposed to be adverse are but a cover for the main object underneath all the muster of difficulties and objections — the desire to get rid of divine authoritative truth, which probes the conscience as nothing else can; and the more so, as not the prophets only but the Lord of glory also have affixed a seal, which profanity alone would think of breaking, to the Pentateuch as God’s word written by Moses.
We have seen that the positive objections, when sifted, either fall to the ground, or become rather witnesses in favour of the Mosaic authorship and inspired character of the first five books of the Old Testament. The alleged omissions, rightly viewed, bear testimony to the same. An inspired writer can and does habitually leave such blanks as we find in the history of the sojourn in the wilderness, the journeys and stations, the desired particulars of Hur and Jethro, etc. This is never so, save by defect of information, in human annals; but it flows immediately from the moral design of scripture. Man loves to stimulate and indulge curiosity; God inspires for the communication of His mind, the link of connection being in the divine purpose and objects, not in the facts which may often be partial and disjointed as a history.
Let me cite the competent opinion given entirely apart from controversy by Mr. H. F. Clinton, which may serve to illustrate more than one point. “The history contained in the Hebrew scriptures presents a remarkable and pleasing contrast to the early accounts of the Greeks. In the latter we trace with difficulty a few obscure facts preserved to us by the poets, who transmitted with all the embellishments of poetry and fable what they had received from oral tradition. In the annals of the Hebrew nation we have authentic narratives written by contemporaries, and these writing under the guidance of inspiration. What they have delivered to us comes accordingly under a double sanction. They were aided by divine inspiration in recording facts, upon which, as mere human witnesses,16 their evidence would be valid. But as the narrative comes with an authority which no other writing can possess, so in the matters related it has a character of its own. The history of the Israelites is the history of miraculous interpositions. Their passage out of Egypt was miraculous. Their entrance into the promised land was miraculous. Their prosperous and their adverse fortunes in that land, their servitudes and their deliverances, their conquests and their captivities, were all miraculous. The entire history, from the call of Abraham to the building of the sacred temple, was a series of miracles. It is so much the object of the sacred historians to describe these that little else is recorded. The ordinary events and transactions, what constitutes the civil history of other states, are either very briefly told, or omitted altogether; the incidental mention of these facts being always subordinate to the main design of registering the extraordinary manifestations of divine power. For these reasons the history of the Hebrews cannot be treated like the history of any other nation [exactly what rationalism essays to do, to the dishonour of scripture, and to its own utter and ruinous confusion]; and he who should attempt to write their history, divesting it of its miraculous character, would find himself without materials. Conformably with this spirit there are no historians in the sacred volume of the period in which miraculous intervention was withdrawn. After the declaration by the mouth of Malachi (Mal. 3:1) that a messenger shou1d be sent to prepare the way, the next event recorded by any inspired writer is the birth of that messenger.17 But of the interval of 400 years between the promise and the completion no account is given. And this period of more than 400 years between Malachi and the Baptist is properly the only portion, in the whole long series of ages from the birth of Abraham to the Christian era, which is capable of being treated like the history of any other nation.”18
“The character of the Jews in their captivity had undergone a remarkable change. During the period of their judges they had been easily seduced into the idolatries of their neighbours; but, after their return from Babylon, they exhibited a spirit of attachment to their law and to their sacred books which they maintained under all circumstances with incredible firmness. A people of such habits as they had now acquired was eminently fitted for the office, for which they were designed, of guardians of the oracles of God, ἐπιστεύθησαν τὰ λόγια τοῦ Θεοῦ. (Rom. 3:2.) Josephus, Apion, i. 8, remarks of his countrymen, πᾶσι σύμφυτόν ἐστιν εὐθὺς ἐκ τῆς πρώτης γενέσεως Ἰουδαίοις τὸ νουμίζειν αὐτὰ Θεοῦ δόγματα, καὶ τούτοις ἐμμένειν, καὶ ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν, εἰ δέοι θνήσκειν ἡδέως. Miraculous aid was now therefore no longer necessary to fit them for their office, and was accordingly withheld. As in the material world Providence had everywhere proportioned the means to the end, the forces being not greater than the occasion requires, so it would seem that in his spiritual communications extraordinary aids are only granted when ordinary influence is insufficient. At the birth of the Messiah the greatness of the occasion demanded that divine communication, after a suspension of four centuries, should again be made; and the evangelists and apostles were armed with supernatural gifts and powers adequate to the duties which they were to perform.”
“From this spirit of the scripture history, the writer not designing to give a full account of all transactions, but only to dwell on that portion in which the divine character was marked, many things which we might desire to know are omitted, and on many occasions a mere outline of the history is preserved.” (Fasti Hellen i. pp. 283-285.)
These are in the main, without vouching for every thought or expression, words of truth and soberness. Not only were God’s ways with Israel above mere nature, but His word as to the patriarchs and them has throughout a prophetic character. Even so ordinary a transaction as the domestic trouble of Sarah and Hagar as to Isaac and Ishmael we know on inspired authority to be an allegory of the two covenants, and the opposition of the flesh to promise and the Spirit. So we are taught that Melchisedec in Gen. 14 represents a higher priesthood than that of Aaron, verified now in Christ and to be displayed in His kingdom. In short everywhere God selected by the inspired writers such facts as were adequate to bring out fully what man is as morally judged of Himself, and what God is in grace or in government, of which Christ is the only complete expression. All scripture is the expansion of this as its central idea: not that the several writers knew the bearing of all they wrote, especially those before Christ, but that He did who inspired them all to write.
Hence there is a vast system of which the several books form part, filling up each the place assigned in the purpose of God. While every book has an unity of its own, and certain books may supplement each other in a way evidently beyond the writers’ thought, they all compose a divine whole.
Thus in Genesis, couched under the simplest forms of word or deed, are seen the great principles of divine action and relationship with man from the earliest days, which look on typically to the last: creation, human responsibility, sin, revelation of a Deliverer in grace, sacrifice in faith, the world in its worship and in its outward progress, translation to heaven, corruption and violence on earth, providential judgment and deliverance through it, covenant with the earth, human government ordained but of God, combination of men in pride, dispersion into nations, tribes, and tongues by divine judgment; calling by grace as a separate witness for the God of promise; the risen son and heir with the calling of the bride; the election for the earth cast out for a time, but after humbling experiences restored and blessed and a blessing; and this in connection with a holy sufferer rejected by his brethren, sold to the Gentiles, but by this very path of sorrow exalted over the world while unknown to Israel, and receiving a Gentile bride, but finally making himself known to his brethren preserved through their secret trouble, and now owning in him the grace and glory they had so long despised and hated.
In Exodus we see, not individuals or a family, but a people, God’s people, redeemed from the house of bondage and brought to God from the world which falls under His mighty hand, and inflictions in an ever-rising character till chastening slighted ends in exterminating judgment; but the people of God themselves failing to appreciate His grace which led them all the instructive way from Egypt to Sinai, and voluntarily accepting conditions of obeying the law as the means and tenure of divine privilege, yet even in the shadows of the tabernacle, etc., having His grace in Christ typified with striking variety and fulness.
Leviticus next presents God from the tabernacle laying down the means and character and consequences of access to Himself by sacrifice and priesthood and ordinances for food, birth, disease, infirmity, etc., and feasts for the people in the midst of whom He dwells, with the prophecy of their ruin and exile for rebellious and idolatrous unbelief, but of their restoration when they should repent by His grace, and so enjoy the promises made to their fathers.
The book of Numbers gives us the sojourn and march of the people through the desert, with the provisions of grace, the full account of their unbelief as to both the way and the end, the judgment of presumption and rebellion, and the effort of the enemy to hinder turned of God into the grandest vindication of His people and assurance of future glory when He judges the world, with facts and ordinances which look onward to their possession of the promised land.
Deuteronomy is not only a farewell moral rehearsal of the law, but also of God’s ways with Israel, enforcing obedience as the way of blessing; as the last words of him who was the chief type of Messiah as Prophet, it urges on the people, just about to enter the land, a more direct relationship with Jehovah their God, and, while predicting their ruin through disobedience, points darkly to “secret things,” the resources of divine mercy in which He will more than retrieve all to their blessedness and His own glory in the latter day.
There is thus a deep inward connection as well as progress in the five books of Moses, and the reader who looks below the surface will find proofs of this multiplying on his prayerful study; but the same principle is true of the entire Bible from Genesis to the Revelation, the links between which are as strong as they are numerous, and those comparatively indirect or latent so much the more undeniable a testimony to the One Divine Author of them all.
1 “An Introduction to the Old Testament, Critical, Historical, and Theological; containing a Discussion of the most important Questions belonging to the several Books.” By Samuel Davidson, D.D., of the university of Halle, and LL.D., vol. i. p. 124.
2 I do not refer to questions of readings, translations or expositions, which are quite distinct from divine revelation, and belong solely to man’s responsible use of revelation.
3 Introd. O.T. i. 126,127.
4 Ibid. i. 47-61.
5 Authority in rule or appointment, and inspiration which they might share with the prophets, are very different things, neither of which is denied. None but God however is infallible.
6 Introd. O.T. i. 131.
7 Introd. O.T. i, 75, 76; 356, 357; 364; 377, 378; 395, 396.
8 Introd. O. T. i. 152.
9 It is not true that “law, order, uniformity, slowness, partiality characterize those changes; not suddenness or universality. Universal destruction and reconstruction — anarchy followed by order — are things unknown to science, and opposed to all its fundamental conclusions.” A little learning is a dangerous thing. Had it been said that, once established, such is the way of the Creator as long as a given state of things is permitted to endure, Dr D. would have been right; but to put matters thus absolutely is only the science of infidel progressionists or unwary souls, like the late Hugh Miller, beguiled in a measure by them. Laws of phenomena are quite distinct from causes; and the reason why moderns merge the last in the first is the instinctive desire to escape from the thought of creation, and hence of the true God. Positivism is the lowest form of all, and hence is essentially atheistic.
10 It is the grossest ignorance to confound the knowledge of good and evil (i.e. conscience), which was acquired by the fall, with the image and likeness of God in which Adam was made.
11 Smith’s Dict. of the Bible, ii. 775.
12 Neither the name of El-Elion (the most High God) nor any other trait in Gen. 14 is a sufficient reason to warrant the notion that it is a “monogram” from another pen. It is bound up in the closest moral connection with chapter 13. Lot chose for himself, and, soon tasting the sorrows of the world, is only delivered through the prompt love of him who walked in faith while he himself had yielded to covetousness. Further I cannot doubt that Jehovah’s declaration in Gen. 15:1, “I am thy shield, thy exceeding great reward,” is an allusive answer on His part to the noble and generous disinterestedness of Abraham recorded at the close of Gen. 14. Thus the account appears to be so bound up with the chapters before and after as to refute the idea of its being an ancient monument transferred to this book of Moses.
13 Introd. O.T. i. 3, 4.
14 Introd. O.T. i, 58, 59.
15 The supposed confirmation of the Elohistic and Jehovistic hypothesis drawn from the few proper names compounded with Jehovah before Samuel and David (Introd. O.T. i. 19) is null. It was natural they should use the name more when revealed to them in national relationship, though it did not become general till Samuel in measure, and David, faithful and obedient fully, set up what Moses had enjoined, but what had been grossly neglected for centuries before.
16 “It may be said that Moses was not a witness of the facts which he relates between the birth or the call of Abraham (when the history of the Hebrews may be properly said to commence) and his own time. But there were so few steps between Abraham and Moses that, though not a witness, he was an authentic reporter of evidence. In the following history, from the exodus to the rebuilding of the temple, all the writers were, strictly speaking, witnesses.”
17 “Or at least the circumstances which preceded it: Luke 1:1-56. Augustine, Civ. Dei., xvii 24, has remarked this cessation of prophecy: Toto,” etc.
18 “Because during this period divine interpositions were withheld, and the Jews were left to the ordinary course of things. And we may remark that in all ages of their history divine inspiration was vouchsafed in exact proportion to the necessity of the case. Inspiration was afforded to Noah, to Abraham, to Moses; and from Moses to Malachi there was an uninterrupted communication of the divine will through inspired ministry to the chosen people. By this chosen people the knowledge of the Deity was preserved through so many ages in the midst of the darkness and idolatry and polytheism of the other nations of the world. And the measure of inspiration was always in proportion to the exigency. The greatest prophets arose in the most difficult times. The reign of Ahab was distinguished by Elijah and Elisha. Isaiah continued to prophesy through the time of Ahaz. And during the captivity many eminent prophets consoled and instructed the Jews in their calamity. But with Malachi inspiration ceased, and the Jews were left to the exertions of their own faculties. Inspiration appears to have been withdrawn because it was no longer necessary for the purposes of Providence.